We’re all familiar with the sight of a skinny, pouting young model striking a pose and working that classic combination of too much make-up with too few clothes on a billboard/catwalk/glossy magazine page. It’s an aesthetic that works in fash and ad land, because as we all know, sex sells. Combine this pornography-lite approach to marketing with the darker underbelly of the often exploitative modelling industry and we already have a feminist battle on our hands. If we consider a recently released video depicting the backstory to Louis Vuitton’s Autumn Winter 2013/14 collection however, a few figures in the fashion world have added copious amounts of fuel to the fire and the already bloody battle has escalated into a war.
Styled by designer favourite Katie Grand and directed by James Lima, the short film for Love magazine is an editorial project depicting the backstage preparation for Marc Jacobs' Louis Vuitton collection. When I say backstage I also mean backstreet, as the models are seen roaming the rues of Pont Neuf in negligees, knickers and in many shots, nothing at all. While nudity is not an unfamiliar state of affairs on Grand’s shoots (she’s notoriously skilled when it comes to persuading models to strip for the camera), the context here is less saucy, more seedy.
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Featuring such supers as Cara Delevingne, Georgia May Jagger, Edie Campbell, Isabeli Fontana, Saskia de Brauw, Lily Mcmenamy and Magdalena Frackowiak, the context of the film and roles played by the models is nothing less than disturbing. Describing the girls’ portrayals to Grazia, Grand stated: “I knew the character was (James Lima’s) kind of woman; she was French and a lady that enjoys the nighttime.” From this we can take that Mr Lima’s ideal lady is, in fact, a prostitute, as the film leaves little to the imagination and next to no scope for alternative interpretation.
Wearing the cropped, unkempt wigs seen on the Louis Vuitton catwalk, the models are seen posing provocatively against boarded up windows, hitching up their silk slips in front of the headlights of a curb-crawling Mercedes and leaning into car windows as if to solicit a customer. Looking troubled and exhausted, the girls leer into the camera, occasionally pushing it away in a gesture of weak defiance. In a picture of feminine empowerment, bedraggled Cara even gives the finger to a passing vehicle, before resuming her unsteady saunter down dark alleyways and eventually getting into the back of a car, appearing vulnerable, defeated and dishevelled. In a particularly distasteful seen, Magdalena Frackowiak is seen exposing herself from behind in a vulgar striptease involving only a fur coat. I could go on, but it only gets worse.
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One of the most concerning aspects of the film is the cast and crew at its heart. Made by a team of the most influential names in the industry and brought to life by a troupe of this generation’s most high profile models, this is no experimental underground assignment. Although Louis Vuitton has denied any involvement and refused to comment, such ignorance and possible arrogance on the part of the film’s makers should reasonably dismay customers and the general public alike, as fetishising young girls so overtly can surely never be interpreted as good fashion marketing.
What the makers of this film are saying is unclear; but trivialising women prostituting themselves for a luxury designer label hints at how out of touch with reality the fashion world can be. Lawyers, ministers and women’s groups in France have condemned the film, while the newspaper Libération has criticised the team behind it for playing with ‘the fantasy of porn chic’ underlining that ‘the social condition of the vast majority of prostitutes has nothing enviable, nothing fancy, nothing happy about it’.
Grand has since apologised for any offence caused, assuring that ‘It certainly was not our intention’. Whatever the purpose or objective of the film, watching it is an uncomfortable experience and the scenarios presented are surely no woman’s idea of a girl’s night out. Let’s hope that fashion learns from this backwards-looking delineation of women and moves on to represent our higher hopes, dreams and capabilities, because the rest of the world is taking note and it’s time that la mode did too.
See the Louis Vuitton video on YouTube here and let us know what you think...